This week we have read over and over again how the Apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit became bold in their preaching of the Gospel. I am amazed at how this small group of men and women, once bolted up in fear, are now bold in their faith. It is the action of the Holy Spirit. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is evident: they have been confirmed in their faith.
Many of our youth too have recently been confirmed in their faith. Our bishops have traveled throughout their Diocese confirming thousands of High School students in the many parishes that are scattered throughout the country. It is a time for renewal, of being born again, of being alive again! I just hope none of them made the promise I made on the day of my confirmation. I still remember it, in horror, the promise I made to God after being confirmed. I said, “I’m done! I’m finished and you will never see me again!” Why? Looking back on it all I can say that the confirmation classes were a joke. Our catechists were a mess. Some believed their own brand of Catholicism; others transmitted their own “cafeteria” style - pick and choose – dogma on dogmas. What I thought was only happening in my Diocese was actually happening throughout the country. And the “American” Catholic Church would eventually pay a dear price for it. Hundreds of thousands of Catholics left the Church either because they did not know their faith or they did not know how to defend it. The seminaries were no different. Vows and promises were made with the understanding that they were unreasonable and that one day they would be dismissed. After all, we were the American Church, we knew better. Well, the vows remained and continued to rub the Church’s men the wrong way, and eventually too many of them rubbed them off.
Blessed John Paul the Great changed everything. He not only changed the world, he changed the Church. He brought enthusiasm back into the Church. The windows in the Church had been left open far too long and the air inside had become hot and sticky. John Paul II was a divinely appointed AIR-CONDITIONER! He brought us back to life - a lot of us. He inspired revolution – the God revolution. During his tenure the Church almost doubled in size. He knew what we all had to do, and he led the way. He brought down walls, first communist walls and then secular ones as well. He rejuvenated the Pro-Life movement, gave it young faces, a style, articulation and grit! He did it by bring the youth back to the Church. The World Youth Day celebrations were an opportunity to teach and share the faith with honesty and joy. It’s okay to believe in tough sayings. It’s great to go against the current. It’s actually better to be last than to be first!
John Paul II helped many of us to get over the Nicodemous Syndrome. What is it? Ah, it is that horrible ailment where I can only live my faith when no one else is around. Many professionals have it. Many politicians have it too: where faith, conscience and public duty cannot coexist.
Nicodemus was a night-time believer. That is, he never really came to the Light. He never graduated. He had good intentions, the best maybe. But he never took the next step at the cross (road) of his life and make known to his friends and neighbors the most important truth ever known to humanity: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD AND SAVIOR! Amen.